Semi-submersible heavy transport carriers
February 13, 2007 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Float-on, Float-off cargo ships. They're huge. One carried the USS Cole. One class is called the Mighty Servants. There are also the Marlins, or the elegant honesty of the "Transshelf". Big ships need big dock cranes. For maximum impact, compare these monsters to the common penny. Previously, "Where do Supertankers go to die?"
posted by OmieWise (45 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Somewhat related.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:51 AM on February 13, 2007

Ah, yes, Kockumskranen. A great crane, by alla accounts. You can watch a few videos of the dismantling here.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:58 AM on February 13, 2007

Ah shit, Brandon, sorry. It isn't somewhat related, this is effectively a double. I did search, but I did not search "submersible" or "semi-submersible," just "semisubmersible." I see now that I made a mistake. Still, check out the models in the last link.
posted by OmieWise at 7:00 AM on February 13, 2007

Still, that is one big-ass penny.
posted by LordSludge at 7:02 AM on February 13, 2007

Hurrah, hurrah, there can never be too many maritime-geekery links for me. From the ro-ro to the flo-flo, bring 'em on!
posted by Miko at 7:03 AM on February 13, 2007

Holy crap: This thing actually comes apart, and is on wheels? what's the story on this thing? And what's the chronological order of the pictures? I looks like it's coming apart, but it could be 'blog style' top to bottom...
posted by delmoi at 7:06 AM on February 13, 2007

Great post. BTW the link the to USS Cole actually goes to a story about the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts being transported on one of these things. Here is a bit about the recovery of the USS Cole.
posted by exogenous at 7:10 AM on February 13, 2007

Delmoi: I'm pretty sure what we're looking at is a new Mighty Servant being assembled on a large crane apparatus in a shipyard. Those cranes are typical of industrial ship-building, but the scale of everything is off the hook.
posted by Miko at 7:13 AM on February 13, 2007

on wheels?

(Looking closer) The wheels are actually rollers - industrial low-friction movers, like large skates. They're often used to roll a vessel's hull into position to assemble the ship's superstructure.

Often the rollers are used for vessel launching -- using trucks, the rollers are pulled onto a lift dock which then drops into the water like a slow elevator. In this case, the piece under assembly (I'm not even sure what to call it) was lifted via crane and affixed onto a hull already in the water, apparently.

Some of the great pictures -- the blocks that are the size of a large van, with steel cable. Some serious mechanical advantage there. Also, I love the spectating Northern Europeans, whose maritime geekery outdoes anyone's.
posted by Miko at 7:22 AM on February 13, 2007

I don't think it's a double, you got cranes. Just pointing to a similar post for those interested.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:25 AM on February 13, 2007

Don't you wish you could have gone to school bragging about your dad skippering a Mighty Servant? That would have pulled some awesome respect. There can never be too much big 'n wet. Thanks OmieWise.
posted by peacay at 7:27 AM on February 13, 2007

One of these giant boats hauled 4 hugemongous cranes all the way from China to North Carolina without incident until it reached its destination. It then hit a dredge and did some minor damage to the cranes.
posted by NoMich at 7:28 AM on February 13, 2007

I don't understand how that 4 crane boat didn't flip upside down when the first wave hit it.
posted by smackfu at 7:40 AM on February 13, 2007

I want one
posted by cardamine at 7:52 AM on February 13, 2007

smackfu: This is a facile answer, but that is exactly the province of naval architects. Engineering stability into a vessel that seems so topheavy is certainly an impressive undertaking, but is do-able.

Though I don't know anything about that particular type of vessel, a lot of enormous cargo ships are not terribly 'ship-shaped' in their underwater profile. Many are actually rectangular, with steep sides and a near-flat bottom, almost like a shoebox. What happens when they take a wave as a side impact is that the wave will force the vessel to heel over to one side somewhat, but the force of the wave's pushing power is more than equalled by the force of the ocean on the other side pushing back against that flat wall of the hull. The amount of power it would take to overturn a shoebox shape, with its wide stable bottom and hard right angles, exceeds most ocean conditions.

Some cargo ships have a bulb keel -- the ship looks relatively narrow at the waterline, but underneath the water the keel continues very deeply, like a fin, and extends past the bow of the vessel for more of an underwater plane. Again, if the ship heels, the force of thousands of gallons of water pushing down against the lifting force of the keel is greater than the lifting force. When these ships are loaded, you can't see the bulb keel and wouldn't know it's there.
posted by Miko at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2007

This one doesn't look like it's doing so good- what is going on? All the others seem to be nice and horizontal when they're 2/3 submerged, and here you have one that looks like it's going down to Davey Jones'. Also appears to be taken on a cheapo camera with the timestamp on, so it makes me think it's not a planned shoot. Is something going wrong here?

though, if it's wrong... i don't want to be right.

Seriously though, Nice post.
posted by conch soup at 7:56 AM on February 13, 2007

Very cool; thanks, OmieWise
posted by TedW at 8:06 AM on February 13, 2007

This one doesn't look like it's doing so good- what is going on?

That one foundered while offloading something (oil rig?).
posted by IronLizard at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2007

delmoi, Miko's right (and so were you) -- it's bottom-to-top, during construction of the crane. This is called a gantry crane and they are nearly always on rails. You can see the special railroad "trucks" (multi-wheeled feet) being delivered here and in place here. They spend their lives shuttling from one end to the other of a dock, or a drydock, or a train engine shop (in fact your local engine rebuilder probably has a small version -- unless he relies on block and tackle).

In rare cases a gantry might be on crawler feet similar to tank treads.
posted by dhartung at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2007

WRT semi-submersible cranes and floating cranes, Japan's big sub-lifter Yoshida handles up to 3700 tons, and China's Huatianlong lifts 4000 tons (they have also designed the 7000 ton Shanghai). Italy's twin-boom Saipem 7000 can pull up 14,000 tons (equal to the Netherland's SSCV Thialf.)

The biggest onshore load lifter is Kiewit Offshore Services' 13,000 ton capacity Heavy Lifting Device (HLD) in Ingleside, Texas (more pictures in the July-August-September 2006 Kieways magazinePDF.)
posted by cenoxo at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2007

Please oh gods of thread deletion do not mark this as a duplicate because the detail and the links have made my jaw drop, I beseech thee.

OMFG. I want one. I'll work out what to do with it later.
posted by imperium at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and something else that occurred to me. It's not turtles all the way down. There's got to be one of these mothers down there at the bottom.
posted by imperium at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2007

Wikipedia says the Kockumskranen photo-series depicts the disassembly of the crane for transport to South Korea.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2007

Sure it's a double, but it's doubleplusgood.
posted by buzzv at 10:30 AM on February 13, 2007

delete the older one as a double!!
posted by Megafly at 10:34 AM on February 13, 2007

conch soup, how did you find that photo?

Here's the whole sequence (by extrapolating your link): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
posted by metaplectic at 11:35 AM on February 13, 2007

(forget 6)
posted by metaplectic at 11:36 AM on February 13, 2007

This is one of those kinds of posts that makes me thank the gods of metafilter. You know, the kind that alerts you to an arena of human experience that you previously knew absolutely nothing about, but now realize is the neatest thing on the planet.

posted by googly at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2007

conch soup, that one sunk...
posted by miles at 12:00 PM on February 13, 2007

oh and it looks like they are salvaging it too
posted by miles at 12:02 PM on February 13, 2007

The links above refer to the Mighty Servant 3, the Mighty Servant 2 also sank, and 5 crewmembers died.
posted by OmieWise at 12:33 PM on February 13, 2007

Great post.

Am I the only one that is a little freaked out about these giant machines - like they're going to eat me or something?
posted by Muddler at 12:33 PM on February 13, 2007

in ur thread
__|`| |"/
~~~\ |~~~~~~~~~~|/'~~~
double postn ur stuff
posted by wfrgms at 12:52 PM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

thanks a lot, the photographs were wonderful!
posted by infini at 2:17 PM on February 13, 2007

I wonder how these monsters handle in really radical sea states. The semisubmersible capability means they could ride a lot lower and perhaps be more stable, but get a seriously top-heavy load on (like one of these rigs or that radar platform) and start taking a beam sea (waves hitting the ship in either side), and it looks like the ship plus its attached load could capsize (roll over).
posted by pax digita at 2:23 PM on February 13, 2007

That's cool - thanks for the links! I love the sheer scale of marine stuff like this.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:28 PM on February 13, 2007

Great post.

Am I the only one that is a little freaked out about these giant machines - like they're going to eat me or something?
posted by Muddler at 3:33 PM EST on February 13 [+]


No! Big things are scary. Especially big boats.
posted by footnote at 2:30 PM on February 13, 2007


Really, really big things are always cool to me. I wonder what the psychology behind that is.
posted by dios at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2007

Thunder Horse world's largest semi submersible transport to date at 59,500 tons carried by Dockwise Blue Marlin; july - september 2004. (disclaimer: I have been professionally involved with Dockwise and earlier Dock Express for over 15 years in the Yacht Shipping division. The world's first custom built semi submersible dedicated yacht carrier will be in service later this year. Here is how a load out is done. I still get off on seeing these operating, even after all these years. It is such a highly co-ordinated team effort at so many levels).
posted by adamvasco at 6:41 PM on February 13, 2007

conch soup, how did you find that photo?

It's just over half way down in the second link of the original post.

Thanks metaplectic and miles. That only happened a couple months ago! I'm so glad to have an (unexpected) answer. I was worried the "Dockwise" was going to remain an enigma, wrapped in a mystery.

Great post, great thread.
posted by conch soup at 6:53 PM on February 13, 2007

I guess I should have figured out how recent that sinking was from the timestamp that reads -06.12.2006 02:35-
Saw it, but didn't look closely.

You have to wonder who took that photo! Some guy sitting on giant floating thing #1 (Oil rig), watching the giant floating thing #2 (semi-submersible carrier) that he had been on moments before, sink below him? Gotta have alot of faith in the giant floating thing #1.
posted by conch soup at 7:01 PM on February 13, 2007

admavasco: thanks, that was fascinating!
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on February 13, 2007

The excellent naval history site Haze Gray & Underway has extensive USS Cole (DDG 67) photo galleries. Three of these — The Journey Home, Part I, II, III — document the Cole's trip from Yemen to the U.S. on the deck of the Blue Marlin.
posted by cenoxo at 10:24 PM on February 13, 2007

Thanks so much for posting this! I'd wondered forever about these type of ships, but Google-fu failed me. One of the Dockwise vessels brought four container cranes into the Port Of Tacoma a number of years ago...I've seen a few odd pictures but never could find any details. My curiosity is satisfied.

Pax Digita, Dockwise says the Tacoma crane transport did encounter heavy seas between Korea and the U.S. coast, but no damage was done. The ships are designed to handle the rough stuff (excluding uncharted granite pinnacles, of course...which sank the Mighty Servant 2).
posted by lhauser at 7:32 AM on February 14, 2007

Apparently the first two sinkings photos depict the Mighty Servant 2, while the last three show MS3.
posted by metaplectic at 11:00 AM on February 14, 2007

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